Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov yesterday announced new measures to clear homeless people and beggars from the streets of the capital. Luzhkov said he was concerned about rising crime rates in Moscow, for which he blamed the city’s large homeless population. The mayor runs for reelection in June and appears to view the new measures as a way to cultivate votes. He earlier attracted the opprobrium of human rights activists when he ordered the expulsion of unregistered people of "Caucasian nationality" from Moscow in November 1993.
Although the Soviet state had strict laws against "parasitism," mass homelessness in the national capital is a largely post-communist phenomenon. According to some reports, between 200,000 and 300,000 people are now sleeping in the rough in Moscow. A disproportionate number are impoverished pensioners, many others are refugees from civil strife in other parts of the former Soviet Union, particularly the Transcaucasus. Still others are fleeing unemployment and hardship in the Russian provinces. Luzhkov announced that the municipality, which presently has only one overnight shelter for 24 people, will build ten more shelters. However unspecified new punishments are to be introduced for beggars and the police given additional powers to chase the homeless off the streets and out of the city. (10)
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